Sierra Leone

Building on more than a decade of researching youth marginality in the country, my research in Sierra Leone is presently focused on the growth of the ‘cliques’ – street gangs that have adopted and adapted US street-culture (with names like ‘Crips’ and ‘Bloods’). I began this research in 2016 at a time when the gangs were severely under-researched. I have since conducted multiple extended fieldwork visits in the country, interviewing and spending time with gangs, their communities, and other relevant stakeholders. The aim of my research is to both document the experiences and development of the cliques, and to offer practical insights into how related challenges can be constructively tackled.

I lead a British Academy-funded project ‘Life in Between: Youth Street Gangs and Marginality in Contemporary Sierra Leone.‘ Working closely with Professor Ibrahim Abdullah (Fourah Bay College), this project has produced over 500 in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with gang members across Sierra Leone, as well as members of the police, civil society, prison service, local communities and other relevant actors. The project forms the basis for two forthcoming journal articles and a policy paper.  I am also currently shooting a documentary on cliques in collaboration with WAYout in Sierra Leone, filmed and co-produced with former street youth.

Local laws in Susan’s Bay informal settlement prohibit wearing gang colours © KMitton

Publications and Outputs

Header image: Members of Blood gangsters prepare cannabis for sale, Freetown, Sierra Leone, February 2018 © Kieran Mitton.